Passage of a second state law requiring that pregnant women be told they can “reverse” a medication abortion has prompted an outcry from pro-choice advocates.
“Extreme legislators are so focused on preventing a woman from getting an abortion that they are willing to ignore the medical experts and hide behind junk science,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said Tuesday in response to news that Arkansas enacted an abortion regulation law.
“This kind of politically motivated legislation is simply bad medicine,” said Hayley Smith, associate advocacy and policy counsel at ACLU.
Doctors are already saying “this is inappropriate interference in the exam room,” she said, because they are being forced to “give information that is not, in fact, medically accurate” or in the woman’s best interest, but is “clearly intended to advance a political agenda.”
On Monday, Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the law, which says that when a woman seeks a medication abortion, a health professional must personally tell her that if she changes her mind, “it may be possible to reverse the effects” of the abortion drug, “but that time is of the essence.”
Details about abortion reversal are to be included in materials prepared by the state Department of Health, the law said.
The abortion reversal rule was included “out of an abundance of caution” for women, said Arkansas state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, author of HB 1578.
“I think a woman at that point [of chemical abortion] just needs to have all the information put in front of her, and then have a moment of peace to try to think through all those issues,” Ms. Lundstrum, a Republican, told The Washington Times.
There have been around 80 live births from counteracting these abortions, “and it’s hard to argue with that,” she said.
Similar language was enacted in Arizona earlier this year. Both state laws are slated to go into effect this summer.
Pro-life groups are excited about the prospect of saving babies even at such a very late stage.
“That’s great that we are able to do that if it’s caught in time,” said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, adding that she knows of at least one woman who was able to reverse her abortion.
Some 87 women have delivered healthy babies, and around 75 more women are continuing their pregnancies, family physician Dr. George Delgado of San Diego told National Public Radio (NPR) on April 1.
Dr. Delgado is one of the doctors who has developed an “Emergency Abortion Pill Reversal Kit” that he and others — like Priests for Life and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists — hope will be obtained by physicians, as well as hospitals and urgent care centers.
The abortion reversal process can be attempted if a pregnant woman has taken RU-486 or mifepristone pill, but not the second pill, called Cytotec or misoprostol, which induces contractions to expel the dead fetus.
RU-486 is designed to kill the fetus by blocking it from the nourishing hormone progesterone. Dr. Delgado hit on the idea of giving women progesterone to undo the effects of RU-486 since he had often used progesterone shots to stave off miscarriages.
The NPR segment also included Dr. Stephen Chasen, an OB-GYN from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. He called the reversal process “junk science” because “it hasn’t been tested in any clinical trial.”
Maybe injecting a woman with progesterone “could” cause a reversal, “but I have no way of knowing, and nobody has anyway of knowing, and [Dr. Delgado] has no way of knowing,” said Dr. Chasen, who added that if a woman skips the second, misoprostol pill, it’s possible her pregnancy would continue on its own anyway.
Planned Parenthood lambasted the new Arkansas law for putting “words in doctors’ mouths” and not verifying that these abortion reversals won’t harm women’s health. Ms. Smith said the ACLU would be assessing both laws for possible legal action.
Ms. Mimms said she believed the reversal measure is important for women who “have a change of heart.”
Opponents may call it junk science, Ms. Mimms said, but “if it’s working, it’s not so much junk science, is it?”